Appraisers killing deals, comps and high prices

There is lots of talk about appraisers being “deal killers” because appraisals are coming in too low. I’m not saying that’s fiction, and I’m not about to defend bad appraisals either, but sometimes it’s about the deal being unrealistic rather than appraisers killing it.

Image by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Choosing the Right Comps: I appraised a property in Citrus Heights recently just south of the Placer County line and the City of Roseville. The subject neighborhood is outlined in yellow below. During the course of the appraisal I extended the opportunity for the Listing Agent to share any competitive sales or data that was used to develop the list price. The agent then provided me with “comps” across the county line in Roseville (in the “blue” territory below). These sales of course supported the contract price for the subject property, but were they really adequate comparable sales? Would buyers consider properties in Citrus Heights and Roseville at the same time? Is there any price difference between these two neighborhoods? What does the data say? (see graph below)

Citrus Heights vs Roseville Map - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

citrus heights vs roseville - graph by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

There are surely times when sales in a different city or county might be competitive and therefore worth considering in an appraisal, but not in this case in my opinion. Why? Because the Roseville neighborhood plain and simply has higher property values – not to mention it has a different school district. If I used the “blue” comps above, the subject property would have an inflated value. Bottom line.

What are the market takeaways from this scenario?

  1. Bad Comps: It’s best to use comps (comparable sales) from the immediate neighborhood, but that’s not always possible – especially if the subject property is unique. Ultimately, regardless of where comps come from, the appraiser needs to have a good reason for using them. If comps are from a superior area, they should be discounted to be more consistent with the subject neighborhood. The same holds true for an inferior neighborhood in that the appraiser should add value to those sales to bring them up to the same level of the subject neighborhood. Ultimately the wrong comps can lead to a value that is either too high or too low.
  2. Realtors: If you supply comps to an appraiser, it helps if they are truly competitive sales. Would a buyer for the subject property consider purchasing the comps as a replacement if the subject property was not available? As an FYI, when the agent for the property above told me these two neighborhoods had the same school district (they don’t) and there was no value difference either (there is), I had a hard time believing any other information the agent shared with me about the number of offers or the price level of offers too. It was unfortunate to have the feeling that I couldn’t trust the agent, whether the agent was simply mistaken or a more purposeful communicator.
  3. Appraisers: It’s important to pay close attention to nearby neighborhoods to ensure there is no price difference.
  4. Proper Pricing: The market has been “on fire” in Sacramento as prices have shown an increase lately in many areas. However, it’s still important to price properties according to the market. After all, there are many reasons why buyers will overpay right now. If you are a seller, look at the most recent sales (and listings), and be competitive with realistic expectations. I’ve noticed many sellers are actually not choosing the highest offers because they know it just won’t appraise that high. However, sometimes offers at extremely high levels are chosen, and then frustration ensues when the appraisal comes in “low”. Yet the real issue in these cases is that the buyer offered too much and the seller expected too much. It’s really not an appraisal problem (assuming the value was solid of course).

The Bottom Line: I am not wearing market blinders that ignore there is a real issue with the quality of appraisals. That’s why I’ve written so much about challenging low appraisals. Yet at the same time there are properties being priced very aggressively right now, which is also important to sift through. In cases like this, when the appraiser recognizes value at a level lower than the contract price, the appraiser is simply doing what should be done, right?

Any thoughts or stories to share? If you are an agent, how have the appraisals been for your deals lately? What do you wish appraisers would do differently? (please comment below)

NOTE: This is in no way intended to bash Realtors. That’s not how I operate. In fact, this next year will be my fourth year sitting on a committee with the Sacramento Association of Realtors. If you are looking for a trustworthy real estate agent, my digital Rolodex is full of referrals for you.

If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook

7 reasons why buyers offer more than a house is worth

Have you noticed how some listings are receiving multiple offers at list price even though they are priced way too high for the neighborhood? I’m talking about the type of listings where agents and others all think, “There’s no way in heck it’s going to appraise that high.” But buyers are still offering at list price and even above. What does this tell us about the market?

Possibilities for why buyers offer full price even when the list price is REALLY high for the neighborhood:

  1. Value: The market has increased in recent months.
  2. Strategy: Since inventory is so tight in the Sacramento area, buyers feel the need to offer at list price or above to get into contract.
  3. Rejection: Buyers have become burned-out from getting their offers rejected, so they’re offering at higher levels to help compete with other buyers.
  4. Cash Competition: There is so much cash in the market, so financed offers need to find a way to be more attractive to sellers (higher offers can help).
  5. Money: It’s really cheap to borrow money right now, so taking out a larger loan is not as big of a deal.
  6. Financing: When buyers finance nearly all of their purchase (FHA), they’re essentially spending someone else’s money. It’s a whole lot easier to offer more when you’re not spending your own money, right?
  7. Good Deals: Many buyers still remember how high prices used to be, so offering more in today’s market still feels like a deal because current values are far lower in the post real estate “bubble” burst.
  8. Other: What do you think?

Housing Inventory in Sacramento County - Graph by Trendgraphix - posted on Sacramento Appraisal Blog

My take as an appraiser: Having multiple offers can be one indicator for how the market sees a property, but it’s not the end-all fool-proof metric for determining value. For example, 10 offers at list price sounds sincerely convincing on paper to establish value, but we also must sift through factors above to try to understand the motivations of buyers – not to mention consider competitive sales and other market metrics. After all, as mentioned above, there are many reasons why a buyer or group of buyers might offer more for a property than it is actually worth.

Listing a property at any price level: I was talking to an investor friend recently about how he could pretty much list his properties at any price level right now (relatively speaking), yet still generate multiple offers due to scarcity of supply. This isn’t true in every case of course, but it’s definitely a realistic dynamic in the Sacramento area real estate market.

All things considered, it’s easy to blame appraisers when appraisals come in “low”, and there are certainly scenarios where appraisers should be blamed. However, in cases like this where offers are unrealistically high for the market, the appraisal probably should come in “low”, right? By the way, check out a previous article if you need help challenging a low appraisal.

Anything you’d add? Any stories to share? Realtors, have you seen listings get into contract far above what you think is realistic? What advice would you give to buyers trying to get an offer accepted these days?

SacBiz Journal Mention: By the way, I was quoted in a Sacramento Business Journal article last week on a related topic of “Homebuyers starting to pay higher prices as investor market dominance wanes.”

If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook